A Suffolk Cottage Garden

Last week I was privileged to be able to visit The National Collection of Sir Michael Foster’s Irises – planted and cared for by his Gt Gt Granddaughter Lucy Skellorn in her inspiring Suffolk garden.

As well as photographing the Foster Irises ( please see my previous blogpost), I was drawn to the romantic beauty of Lucy’s cottage-garden planting.

 I envy people who can create a mass of intertwining plants that form such a beautiful, cohesive flow of texture and colour like this.  I know it has to do with having enough of each plant type to form a drift – not using too many different species and introducing plants for foliage interest ( grasses, Stachys and Cardoons in Lucy’s case) amongst the patches of colour in order to accentuate the effect of both foliage & flower. The creation of different heights and textures is vital, along with – in the best examples- a coherent colour palette. This one was perfect for my taste – purples, soft blues, dusky pinks and whites, nothing jarring or out of place.  It all looked relaxed and natural, although I’m sure was the result of tasteful and careful initial planning – and then the patience to wait for your plan to develop over a few years.

The final ingredient, perhaps, is that added touch of magic that only Nature can bring to a scheme when it sorts out exactly how it wants things to appear. What plants will struggle and fade away – or thrive, spread and mingle together.  

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’

Here, in Lucy’s garden, the recipe above, together with the golden light filtering into the garden through the surrounding trees and hedgerows adding its magic, made this a summer’s evening to remember. It was the perfect time to be there enjoying the sights, perfumes and birdsong – and hopefully capturing a spirit of this in my images

A cottage garden is always best with its adjoining cottage – and climbing roses covered the walls of this one, giving a perfect backdrop to the flower beds.

There was Gertrude Jekyll, wonderfully crammed with its ruffles and full of old-fashioned fragrance, next to the paler pink St Swithun.  I was pleased to discover 2 new varieties for me – Buff Beauty and Meg. The latter, with its semi-double flowers, was Lucy’s favourite and I could see why. I don’t think single or semi-double roses are represented enough in the average garden – and people are really missing out without these beautiful flowers. Perhaps it would be a choice for me if I decided to clear away my ever expanding Bay bushes from either side of my porch to grow roses around my door ? So romantic …

There were other roses in the garden, arranged to add height to the planting scheme.

Rosa ‘Mme. Isaac Pereire’

The roses were not the only inspiration from Lucy’s garden. I’m definitely going to be trying the Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ with my new white Foster Irises.

– and also grow some purple and white Hesperis

– and my favourite flower of the whole garden – this dusky poppy. I’m going to see if I can get some seeds from Lucy, although I believe most don’t come true. I shall need to ask her which variety it is.

Here are some more views of Lucy’s beautiful plants …

If I’d been invited to visit Lucy’s garden without her Foster Irises being there, I would still have been spellbound. The natural, romantic feel of this intimate garden offered me such an enjoyable experience and the late evening sunlight cast a magical spell over everything, as each plant took its own special place within the garden’s wonderful tapestry …

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